House of Lords and Theresa May on Brexit collision course

Theresa May   Picture: ANDREW YATES / REUTERS
Theresa May

Britain’s Lords were on a potential Brexit collision course with Prime Minister Theresa May’s government as they weighed changes that could delay a landmark bill to trigger the EU exit.

Government supporters have warned Britain’s upper house of parliament against any hold-ups, warning that the unelected chamber itself could be abolished if it defied the result of the Brexit referendum.

But a source from the opposition Labour Party in the Lords, where the Conservative government does not have a majority, said amendments would be likely to win handsomely in defiance of the government.

And Michael Heseltine, a top Conservative, has also said he plans to rebel against the government by pushing for an amendment to ensure a parliamentary vote on any final Brexit deal.

Heseltine also suggested that the Brexit decision could be reversed before Britain actually leaves the European Union.

“My opponents will argue that the people have spoken, the mandate secured and the future cast. My experience stands against this argument,” he said.

Members of the House of Lords, known as peers, will begin proposing amendments to the bill on triggering Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty — a formal notification of Britain’s intention to leave the bloc.

The government has said it plans to do so by the end of March, firing the starting gun on a maximum two years of negotiations to work out a divorce and the terms of future post-Brexit relations.

The proposed changes are expected to be on defining the parameters of a parliamentary vote on the final Brexit deal, as well as measures to guarantee the rights of three million EU migrants living in Britain.

The Sunday Times reported that ministers are considering plans to limit benefits for new immigrants and grant five-year visas to migrant workers in key sectors, such as software engineering, health and social welfare and hospitality.

Another key concern for ministers is the issue of what will happen to semi-autonomous Scotland and it was reported yesterday that Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon could make a formal request as soon as next month for a new independence referendum.

The House of Commons, where May enjoys a majority, approved the Brexit bill without any changes.

If peers approve the bill without amendments it will be sent – after a final reading next Tuesday – directly to the queen to sign into law. – AFP

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